Gastronomic trial and error in Essex, London and now Bristol.
Monday, 4 March 2013
Pease Pudding and Ham Hock
In these recession-ravaged times, food frugality is to be clutched to the metaphorical bosom. But cheap ingredients aren’t necessarily a poor substitute. A recent dinner of pease pudding and flaked ham was one of the best things I’ve eaten in bloody ages and it doesn’t really get more frugal than that. Split green peas, 50p. A ham hock that admittedly looks like the sort of offcut you might buy as a treat for your pet dog, £1.99. A bit of root veg to sex it all up, say a couple of quid, and you have dinner for 4 and a load of stock left to make soup with.
For me, pease pudding and flaked ham hock is evocative of the old East London I briefly glimpsed as a child in my nan and granddads kitchen, before the family’s exodus to Essex.
Pease pudding is now thought of as an exclusively Northern dish, but there was a real tradition of eating it in East London. Growing up, my Mum’s favourite dinner was Ham or boiled bacon, pease pudding, boiled carrots and potatoes (tres boiled, yeah). My granddad used to cook the split peas in a muslin bag along with the hock.
If there was some left over, the next day, cold pease pudding, ham and mustard sandwiches were another of my Mum’s favourites.
Even if they didn’t cook it at home, pease pudding was often on the cards. As a little girl, my Mum remembers ‘Webster’s’ a delicatessen opposite East Ham town hall, on the Barking Road selling pease pudding from a pot on the marble counter, slapped into grease proof paper and eaten along with saveloys or ‘very peppery’ meat pies which must have been at the dying end of a tradition that novelist Walter Besant wrote about in his book ‘East London’ published in 1901 – which describes an evening trade of ‘faggots, saveloys and pease pudding’
With all this family food heritage, I’m almost ashamed to say that, it was only the other day that I first tried cooking pease pudding and a ham hock myself. It definitely wont be the last time. It was astoundingly good. Pease pudding is subtle, peppery and strangely comforting. Topped with the slightly salty and rich ham hock and loads of white pepper, incredible stuff.
Even if you don’t fancy making the pease pudding, the ham hock is worth doing on it’s own. Life feels much more complete with some lumps of ham to pick at along with a blob of mustard and some good bread and butter.
If you fancy pushing the boat out and doing two ham hocks, you don’t need to add any extra veg, just bang them both in the pot.
I’d like to say this is an old East End family recipe, but I shamelessly pinched it from the always reliable, Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Great British Pub Food’,
Ham Hock and Pease Pudding
You’ll Need: -
1 large smoked or unsmoked ham hock, with bone. Soaked overnight in cold water
2 leeks, trimmed
2 celery sticks, trimmed
1 large carrot, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and halved
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
2 bay leaves
few thyme sprigs
few rosemary sprigs
1 tsp black peppercorns
For the pease pudding: -
300g split green peas, soaked overnight in cold water.
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
small bunch of flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped.
You’ll need to plan ahead to make this recipe. Both the ham hock and the split green peas need to be soaked overnight in cold water. It might seem like a load of faff but believe me, it’s worth it. In the case of the ham it’s a precaution to rinse out any salt present. It’s impossible to tell how salty it might be and there’s the possibility of ruining the finished dish As for the peas, it softens them and reduces the cooking time.
Rinse and drain the ham hock, then put into a large pan. Cut the leeks, celery and carrot into 5 cm lengths and add to the pot with the onion, garlic, herbs and peppercorns.
Pour in enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, skimming any scum from the surface. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for 2-3 hours, until the meat is soft and pulls away from the bone easily.
Remove the ham hock from the stock and set aside to cool slightly, before flaking the meat into pieces discarding any skin, gristle or bones. Strain the stock, and measure out 600ml for the split green peas.
For the pease pudding, strain the split peas and put them into a saucepan with the chopped onion. Pour in the reserved ham stock and bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 2 ½ - 3 hours until the peas are soft and the liquid has mostly been absorbed. Add the butter and Worcestershire sauce and season well with white pepper (the original recipe suggests black – I don’t agree).
Serve the pease pudding in bowls, topped with flaked ham hock, chopped parsley and some more white pepper.
Until recently Essex - Now 'on tour' in Bristol, United Kingdom
"I wouldn't call it so much a peek as a full blown expose of your innermost culinary pretentions and ambitions. You're effectively rolling over and exposing the soft paunch of your underbelly and asking to be caressed. You're a culinary whore!"